I have been around some incredible evangelists in my life. I served with a guy named Joel in Salt Lake City who could make a seemingly innocuous conversation with a clerk at a gas station into a presentation of gospel truths. I have served with a young woman named Molly who was able to relate to seemingly all people from any walk of life and get them to understand the message of the gospel. I have been around men and women who are able to sit on a plane, a bus, or an Uber and have gospel-centered conversations with strangers. It’s impressive and cool, but sometimes discouraging.
In his book, Surprise The World, Michael Frost shares how many people in our churches feel discouraged by the evangelists in our midst because God hasn’t wired all people to be like the Billy Grahams of our age. Frost goes on to say in the book that God has a two-fold design for evangelism. God has called all to be evangelistic, but only some to fulfill the role of evangelists.
In my life, I’ve felt the pressure to be more evangelistic than I am prone to be. I led trips to Portland and Phoenix, spending a total of around 20 months in urban church-planting environments. Yet if I’m honest, I never felt like an evangelist. I did not find myself comfortable in that setting, equipped to function in such a role. I had many nights in those cities plagued with the questions of why I hadn’t done more. When in Phoenix, I lived with a friend named Marcus who made it a point to have conversations with neighbors, while I floundered in such conversations. I knew the Scriptures, loved teaching them, but actually opening up and talking about the gospel with strangers was exceedingly difficult.
Was my faith not strong enough? Why was I so bad at evangelism? These types of questions haunted me.
In his book, Frost looks to Colossians 4:2-6 as a picture of the twofold ministry of evangelism:
“For evangelists, Paul asks for opportunities to proclaim the gospel clearly (verses 3-4). But he doesn’t suggest the Colossians pray as much for themselves. Rather, evangelistic believers are to pray for the evangelists’ ministry, to be wise in their conduct toward outsiders, and to look for opportunities to answer outsiders’ questions when they arise (verses 2, 5-6).”
So in the mind of Frost, God uses those called to an evangelism role in the church to be vocal, traveling ministers of the gospel. The rest are to be wise in their conduct and ready to answer the questions of those around them who are not walking with Christ. That is where Frost comes up with the name of the book: Surprise the World. The actions of first-century Christ-followers was genuinely surprising to all who encountered them. It was their actions, rhythms, and habits that led into conversations.
Some of us are gifted orators and apologists, whom God can use to have on the spot conversations with non-believers about the good news of His Son.
The majority of us however, are to surprise the world around us with the rhythms, habits, and actions that we take. When this happens, we can vocalize why we do what we do. Here’s where we as Christians get it wrong. If we’re honest, few of our habits are affected by our belief in the gospel.
Frost puts it like this:
“If we’re trying to live questionable lives, then cutting the lawn, saying hi to the neighbors, washing our car, walking the dog, and driving to the office every day is hardly an intriguing lifestyle.”
Living the American dream with a bi-weekly church attendance and occasional Bible reading is not living in such a way that surprises the world. We’re no different than our neighbors who believe in morality if that’s the case.
That being said, in the ‘radical Christian’ age that we live in, where crazy acts of sensationalized missions brought about by guilt seem to be the rave, we need to step back and remember that ordinary acts of kindness, love, and Christlikeness is likely more appealing to the non-believer than our profile pictures from Africa or Asia. God alone deserves glory and honor and praise, and I believe that many of us are using and abusing the message of Christianity to make a name for ourselves, to be ‘world-changers’, and to leave a legacy. That is living for your own glory and it is a travesty in our current church climate. My life on earth is NOT about my desire to be remembered. It should be about Christ and God’s ultimate glorification in me.
Here are some examples from lives of those around me that are the middle ground between living a life of suburban bliss that doesn’t awaken neighbors to their need for the gospel and a life of radicalized missions that makes life about our own glory:
My father’s friend Michael who in the face of impending death due to cancer was able to live a life of joy, hope, and trust despite what was an unfair diagnosis and circumstance that ultimately led to his passing.
My friend who lives with a faith in God that is greater and stronger than any earthly circumstance that she has had to walk through in her life, including poverty, and how she has opened up her home to foster and yet remains trusting the promises of God in this season as well.
My friend Donovan who has nine children. He lives with a joy that is tremendous and he lives with a commitment to Christ and family. His devotions with children as opposed to aimless media consumption each night shows in the lives of his children and it is definitely surprising in this day and age.
My friend Sarah who manages the local Boys and Girls Club. It is a humongous task that she undertakes, dealing with the pains of seeing kids struggle with sin and being in the midst of suffering and yet at the end of the day she is able to say that Jesus is still on the throne and in control.
These are just a handful of friends who have surprised the world with the way that they live for Christ here in Vernon, Texas.
You may not be a gifted evangelist. That’s okay. Because you have been called to be evangelistic. Surprise the world with the love you have for Christ.
In His Name,